Creston RCMP responded to a two-vehicle collision on Highway 3 west of Creston at approximately 10:00 p.m. Monday.
Upon arrival, the East Kootenay Traffic Service determined that an eastbound Saturn SUV driven by a lone occupant crossed the centre line and collided head-on with a westbound RV with a family of five from southwestern Alberta. The RV left the highway and came to a rest on its roof and caught fire.
Four of the five occupants of the RV were able to escape the burning vehicle. A four-year-old girl who had been sleeping in the back of the RV perished in the crash. The driver of the Saturn, a 26-year-old man from the Cranbrook area, was also killed in the collision.
Highway 3 was closed for several hours as police investigated.
“Our hearts are broken by this tragic news. Our deepest sympathies and condolences are with the families and loved ones,” said festival owner and president Jimmy Bundschuh, a father to a four-year-old himself, in a message to Black Press Media.
“We have an intensive ‘Get Home Safe’ campaign, from communication campaigns on the festival grounds and online, through to traffic control and an additional music-free day to restm” he added. “The precise details of the specific incident are not yet fully available and until such a time as they are, it is impossible for us to comment in more detail.”
East Kootenay Traffic Services and the BC Coroners’ Service are continuing to investigate the collision. At this time, there is evidence to suggest that the driver of the Saturn was returning home after a late departure from the Shambhala Music Festival when the collision occurred. Police have not ruled out the possibility that the driver was impaired.
“Police remind all drivers of the dangers of impaired driving which kills 68 people in BC every year, on average,” said Cpl. Mike Halskov in a press release on Tuesday. “Remember to drive defensively, obey speed limits, wear seat belts, drive sober and drive distraction-free every time you get behind the wheel.”
At the time of the collision, the festival had ended and many attendees had already left the area. The RCMP will continue with enhanced traffic safety enforcement as the remaining festival attendees depart the area emphasizing zero tolerance for impaired and unsafe driving.
Investigators have not been able to determine whether the girl had been wearing a seat belt because the RV is so damaged, Halskov said.
“Without losing sight of the bigger picture here, regardless if belts were used or not, this collision would not have occurredhad it not been for the actions of the other driver,” he said. “Our thoughts are with the young girl’s family at this difficulttime.”
Anyone with information regarding the collision, including any dash camera video, is asked to call East Kootenay Traffic Services at 250-420-4244.
– with files from Laura Baziuk